Philadelphia, PA – Even before Pittsburgh put the finishing touches on Wednesday's dominating 10-3 win at Philadelphia, you could already imagine the cliches that would be coming out of the Penguins' locker room.
"It's only one win," said Penguins forward Jordan Staal.
That same sentiment was echoed over and over again by Pittsburgh players and their head coach Dan Bylsma. It's sound strategy, after all, to stay on an even keel when attempting to come back from a 3-0 series deficit, something that has been achieved just three times in NHL history.
Now, the question heading into Friday's Game 5 in Pittsburgh is this: Was the Penguins' lopsided victory the sign of things to come in this series or was it only a mirage?
Of course, that's a difficult question to answer since the only thing certain about this Penguins-Flyers playoff matchup is that it's one of the most unpredictable, and memorable, conference quarterfinal series in NHL playoff history.
Even more surprising than the fact Philadelphia jumped out to a 3-0 series lead over the heavily favored Penguins is the amount of offense (or lack of defense, depending on your perspective) through the first four games.
With their astounding win in Game 4, Pittsburgh became the first team to reach double digits in a postseason game since Los Angeles recorded a 12-4 win over Calgary in the spring of 1990.
The Pens and Flyers also have combined for 45 goals in this best-of-seven set, breaking the NHL record for the highest-scoring playoff series through four games.
Fans of the NHL without a rooting interest in this series are dying for this series to go seven games, but what are the odds that will actually happen? After all, before winning by a seven-goal margin to stave off elimination, Pittsburgh appeared to be a team in shambles. Can the Penguins really get their fading Stanley Cup dreams back on track all because of one dominating win?
While still highly unlikely, it's possible that Pittsburgh could become the first team since the 2010 Flyers to win a series after falling behind three games to none. However, with the way the Pens played in Games 1-3, even getting the series to a decisive Game 7 would be an accomplishment.
Still, even if it was just one game, Wednesday's victory was so shocking that it's not crazy to think it could be the spark that gets Pittsburgh primed for a historic comeback.
For the first time in this series, the Penguins showed they can be explosive on offense while not completely abandoning their defensive game. It's just hard to tell if that was due to Pittsburgh finally figuring out a way to slow Philly down, or if the Flyers were just off their game for the first time in this series. The latter is a distinct possibility, considering how much pressure the Philly fans placed on the Flyers to sweep out the hated Penguins on home ice.
As Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said after Game 4, "Desperation wins hockey games," and Pittsburgh was certainly the more desperate team on Wednesday. The Penguins are also the more experienced club with plenty of holdovers from their 2009 Stanley Cup championship, while Philadelphia has leaned heavily this season on its stellar crop of rookies.
One major factor going in Philadelphia's favor -- outside of history -- is how well the Flyers have played in Pittsburgh. The Flyers are 6-1 all-time, including the playoffs, at Consol Energy Center, which opened prior to the 2010-11 season.
Bylsma knows the type of hill his Penguins must climb. He was able to get his boys to buy into the "one game at a time" mentality Wednesday night in Philadelphia, but winning with desperation can get harder with each game. That's especially true when a team has dug itself the dreaded 3-0 deficit.
"It's still 3-1 for the Flyers," Bylsma said. "We have one game to win on Friday. That's got to be the focus. It can't be about momentum or what happened in this game. We have to worry about one game only, which is Friday."
There is no arguing that doubt crept into Philadelphia's locker room for one night, but Laviolette has said numerous times that he is not a big believer in momentum in the playoffs.
"The playoffs are like a loaf of bread," Laviolette said after Game 1 of this series. "It's slice by slice. Some slices you really like, some are kind of moldy and rotten. One has nothing to do with the next"
The Flyers certainly picked a moldy piece of bread in Game 4, but history says they'll get another slice they like before this series is over.